DANVILLE -- Police aren't saying whether 72-year-old Melvin Smith of Martinsville was conscious or not when mysteriously he was dropped off at the Danville hospital early July 4. They only will say that he never was released from medical care and died from his wounds Wednesday.
The case is now considered a homicide, and police say they continue to search for a suspect, Lindsey Antonio "Tony" Wilson, 39, of Yanceyville, N.C., on a charge of malicious wounding.
Smith initially arrived at Sovah Health-Danville's emergency room at 12:30 a.m. on Independence Day, suffering from blunt force trauma and lacerations to his head and neck, the police reported. He was dropped off by people who left the hospital in a brown Ford Expedition with North Carolina plates before officers arrived, according to a pair of search warrants filed in Danville Circuit Court.
Officers tracked down the vehicle to a home at 816 Betts St., according to one search warrant, and they "observed a large amount of blood in the front passenger seat."
People inside the home "confirmed" for officers that the brown Ford Expedition was indeed the vehicle used to transport Smith to the hospital, the other search warrant notes.
One person at the home "advised that an altercation occurred at 816 Betts Street," Det. J.D. Dixon wrote in that search warrant. That person also "confirmed that he/she was one of the occupants that dropped the victim off at the hospital and fled from the hospital."
While at the house, police noticed a brick with red stains in a trashcan on a side porch, according to the search warrant, which also noted that officers were initially looking for sharp objects.
Police spokesman Lt. Richard Chivvis, when asked if Smith was attacked with a brick or another weapon, answered by email that officers initially were looking for any items that could have inflicted the blunt force trauma and lacerations found on him.
"The medical examiner's report should help us further that," he wrote.
On Thursday afternoon, a woman at the home -- a single-story building with a child's blow-up pool in the front yard and across the street from a church -- would not discuss Smith's assault with the Danville Register & Bee.
She shook her head at the mention of the event that left Smith hospitalized.
"Not talking about that," she said.
She also shook her head when asked if anyone in the home could talk about Smith.
"Nah," she said. "No one in here can talk about it."
Smith on an unspecified date was transferred from the Danville hospital to Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C., which is where he died. Whether his condition changed during his hospitalization remains undisclosed by the police department.
"It is tough to answer a lot right this minute without jeopardizing the integrity of the case," Chivvis wrote.